Most nights in sports, there are winners and losers. Not on this night.
The Nanaimo Sport Achievement honoured the best of the year, and gave a nod to many other overachievers from 2011. The seventh annual celebration announced winners in 15 categories on Saturday at the Coast Bastion Inn.
The evening’s major award winners, taking home Athlete of the Year honours, were baseball player Adam Paulencu and volleyball player Lindsay McLoughlin for team sports, and swimmer Adam Rahier and bowler Jennifer Park for individual sports.
Paulencu, of the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute, parlayed a dominant pitching season into a selection at the Major League Baseball draft. McLoughlin was an all-Canadian and only missed ending 2011 with a gold medal because of a controversial finish at nationals in New Brunswick. Her silver was her fourth national medal in a five-year playing career in Nanaimo.
“It’s been unforgettable,” she said.
Rahier and Park both represented Canada at the Pan Am Games in Mexico, with Rahier taking gold and Park winning silver.
Another major award handed out was Team of the Year, which went to the Vancouver Island University men’s basketball team after a provincial-championship campaign.
“There’s nothing better than a team award,” said Tony Bryce, M’s coach. “It takes a whole bunch of quality individuals to win a team award. I’m just proud of my players and my coaches.”
Winner of Junior Team of the Year was the Nanaimo Pirates peewee AAA all-stars, Western Canadian champions.
Junior Athlete of the Year winners were runners Thomas Oxland and Marita DeSchiffart, both gold medallists at the Legion Canadian Track and Field Championships.
Weightlifter Rhonda Heaslip was selected Masters Athlete of the Year after a record-setting season.
“Age is just a number,” she said. “Dream, believe, achieve.”
Rowers Spencer Crowley and Kai Langerfeld were chosen Partners of the Year after winning silver medals at the Pan Am Games.
Sports Story of the Year was Andrew Harris, the V.I. Raider-turned B.C. Lion who won a Grey Cup in 2011.
“He’s been with our team for a few years now and it was just giving him the opportunity and the chance…” said Paul McCallum, Lions kicker, a few days before the awards. “To come from junior football and play the way he has, it’s really good.”
Raiders president Hadi Abassi accepted Harris’s award and used the opportunity to hijack the proceedings and beg Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan for a multi-purpose facility, suggesting visiting teams laugh at Caledonia Park as a junior football venue.
Bill Merriman of the VIU men’s soccer team won High-Performance Coach of the Year for a second-straight year after guiding the Mariners to nationals again.
“It’s an extraordinary group of players that we have,” Merriman said, while also thanking his assistant coaches.
Nate Stevenson of the Nanaimo District Islanders football program won Grassroots Coach of the Year after leading NDSS to the first provincial championship in school history.
Junior B Timbermen lacrosse manager Irene Morrison won Sport Administrator of the Year, basketball ref Mike James won Official of the Year and former Dover Bay basketball coach Mark Simpson won the Michael Rhode Memorial Award for dedication.
Proceeds from the banquet benefit PacificSport, both for youth camp programs and also for high-performance athletes. This year’s funding recipients are cross-country skier Andrea Lee and curler Darah Provencal.
“I hope that you understand how much you’ve meant to me and I really appreciate everything,” Provencal said.
For a list of finalists, please click here.